24 August 2010

Zucchini Overload

If you found a big brown bag of garden zucchini on your doorstep, I didn’t do it.

Truth is, I’ve been hording all of my zucchini like Halloween candy, squirreling it away into the corners of my tiny, yellow kitchen. I didn’t even give any away to the friends who took care of my cats while I was on vacation. It’s horrible of me, I know.

I’ve been selfish. And it’s shameful. And since I’m on the honesty wagon I may as well tell you that if left to my own devices, I’d do it again. Because this time of year, I turn into a big, green, zucchini monster, shredding, grilling, and baking it away until the next batch rolls in.

And I love it.

If you haven’t yet read Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, you’re missing out. The book is a nonfiction narrative detailing what she calls, “a year of food life”, where she and her family make a promise to eat locally for one year. Kingsolver tells her story chronologically, from seed catalogues, to weeding, and ultimately to harvest. It’s somewhere around July when we first start to hear about the bounty of zucchini she has grown, and her family’s new habit of locking their front door to prevent “friendly” neighbors from stuffing their house with this prolific summer squash. If you’re a regular farmers market patron, I suspect you just might enjoy it.

Zucchini’s reputation for overabundance seems like an understatement when staring at squashes the size of a wine bottle. Where slugs got the better of many of my seedlings and starts this year, the zucchini persevered, growing huge green leaves and beautiful yellow trumpet flowers. When I picked my first one off the plant this year, and held it in my muddy hands I felt like a champion. Slugs: 99, Me:1. It didn’t matter, I grew this giant beast and by-golly I was going to eat it, all of it. And no better way to celebrate a victory than with cake: chocolate zucchini cake.

If you’re not sure what to do with all of that extra zucchini, here are some ideas for you. And if you’re feeling desperate and overwhelmed, before you leave that giant bag of zucchini on an unsuspecting neighbor’s doorstep, turn it into zucchini bread first. Maybe you can even share it together and celebrate late summer’s abundance. That’s what this is all about anyway, right?

5 Things To Do With Extra Zucchini, or, 5 Ways To Be a Good Neighbor

1. Chocolate Cake– Make this delicious chocolate zucchini cake from Epicurious. Chocolate, zucchini, and walnuts, you can’t really go wrong. This is the cake I made with the first zucchini from my garden this year. It was a delicious celebration.

2. Grilled Sandwiches and Kabobs– Marinate it and grill it up kabob style or in flat lengths for sandwiches. If you’re making grilled veggie sandwiches, use a fresh baguette, a bit of local goat cheese, and aged balsamic for decadence.

3. Soup- You can thank my aunt Joy for this, but she once told me that an old Italian trick to thicken up minestrone soup is the addition of diced zucchini. She says to dice it up and add it to cold water, then add the rest of the vegetables for your soup. The zucchini will break down and thicken that soup right up. I haven’t yet tried this myself, but one meal at her house and you won’t doubt any kitchen advice she deals out. No Ma’am.

4. Zucchini Pasta with Basil– Dice up fresh zucchini and sauté it in olive oil over medium heat.  Add a bit of salt, garlic, fresh herbs, and a squeeze of lemon. Cook until it breaks down a bit, and becomes caramel in color, about 15-20 minutes. Toss this mixture with your favorite pasta, fresh Parmesan, and torn basil leaves.

5. Zucchini Frittata- Shred zucchini and place it in a colander over the sink for about 10 minutes, letting the juices drain out the bottom. Using a clean kitchen towel, scoop up the shredded zucchini and give it a good squeeze to get out the remaining juices. Add this mix to a late summer frittata with rosemary, cippolini onions, and local goat cheese.